Slovakia took over the European Union's rotating presidency for the first time on Friday, with the bloc thrown into disarray over Britain's decision to leave the EU and migration challenges looming large.
Every six months, a different member state takes over at the helm of the 28-member bloc, organizing high-level meetings and brokering between EU capitals to reach consensus on touchy issues and push forward the bloc's agenda.
One of the focal points of the Slovakian presidency will be an informal summit of EU leaders - minus Britain - in Bratislava on September 16, to discuss the bloc's future as 27. By then, a successor to British Prime Minister David Cameron should be in place to lead exit talks.
"It is high time for us politicians to acknowledge that we have failed ... in communicating the advantages the European project brings to the citizens," Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said Thursday, with a view to the September summit.
Migration is also a thorny issue that has tested the EU's unity, after more than 1 million people reached Europe last year, with many fleeing war and conflict.
One of the most controversial decisions has been to relocate asylum seekers within the EU, to spread the burden, a step that Slovakia opposes.
"We are against a distribution of refugees according to national quotas," said State Secretary of the Interior Ministry Denisa Sakova, adding that Slovakia would propose a "different approach."
Slovakia has set itself four priorities for its EU presidency, Fico said: an economically strong Europe; maximizing the benefits of the bloc's common market; finding a "balance" in EU migration and asylum policy; and the bloc's role as a global player.
Friday, July 1, 2016 - 14:14